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Like father, like son: Richmond Kickers have a new face with an old name

Posted at 6:14 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 23:38:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond Kickers reached the pinnacle of U.S. soccer in just its third year of existence. The team won the 1995 U.S. Open Cup, a yearly tournament open to any team in the country.

This was before MLS existed and the Kickers hoarded a roster full of talent that would eventually move on to higher levels.

Current Kickers general manager Rob Ukrop was on that team and remembers how quickly it came together as a group.

“That is the hardest thing with any team, whatever the sport, trying to find that camaraderie,” Ukrop said. “I think that's one of the things we had really strongly in 1995.”

Goalkeeper Jeff Causey agreed.

“The camaraderie of that team as the year went along, how we came along, how the team got formed,” Causey said. “It was just something that took off. “

Causey was fresh off four years playing at the University of Virginia and quickly establishing himself as the backbone of the roster.

“Having a leader like Jeff Causey in the back of the net was incredible,” Ukrop said. “Super calm guy, great presence. You looked at him and you felt like he was going to make a save.“

Many of those players moved on to have MLS careers and win championships at other levels.

But that title was now 26 years ago and the next generation is already here.

Austin Causey was just two when his dad retired from playing. He only his father's stories and old videotapes to understand how good that team was and what his father meant to it.

“It took a while,” Austin recalled. “Growing up I always saw him as my dad. As I got older and I started to understand more, seeing him and seeing his game tapes and watching what he did it was like alright dad, you've got some credit.”

Austin played both soccer and baseball growing up, but his father never pressured him into playing his sport or his position.

"He always found himself further and further back closer to the goal,” Jeff said. “Maybe not in the goal. It was like why do you always go back? Why don't you go forward? Why don't you go score? He was like, I don't trust anybody. I want to protect the goal. He had that protection mentality."

Jeff admits that a great deal of Austin's athletic resolve comes from his mother.

“My wife was probably harder on him than I was when it came to sports," Jeff admitted. “If he got beamed in the head it wasn't oh are you ok? It was well, you should have caught it. And that didn't come from me, by the way.”

“I would say he has a little more venom than his dad,” Kickers head coach Darren Sawatzky added. “His dad was a little steadier presence. Austin's got a little bite to him and I really like that.”

Austin has now signed with the Kickers.

At first, Jeff thought his old teammate was doing him a favor by adding the son to the roster, but everyone has quickly seen Austin's progression and promise.

He was not given this opportunity because of his last name or his legacy.

“Regardless of what your dad did or what you've done up to this point, now the real work starts,” Sawatzky said. “You have to become a pro player and it's up to you to ascend. “

“He's a lot further along than they expected him to be,” Jeff said. “They felt he could have a good tenure there in Richmond. So I'm extremely proud of where he is right now.”

Austin is the first second-generation player in Kickers history and if there's any pressure to be as good as his father was in this team's infancy, it's not coming from the organization or his parents.

“Pressure is a good thing,” Jeff said. “If you go with it the right way, he can definitely fuel that fire as I did. Always feeling like the underdog. He can take that and go with it.”

“My dad has always said that I'm on my own path,” Austin added. “I'm thankful for the connection I have with him but I see myself as my own person. I've never felt any real pressure to be like my dad.”

“Right now, I'm the steward of the ship of the longest-running pro team in the country,” said Sawatzky. “It's my job to perpetuate that. Austin makes my life really easy because his dad was great and he's great and hopefully he takes off and does all the same things his dad did for us.”

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